Initiated almost two years ago, IBM's Graduate Training Programme (GTP) takes four university students, less than two years from graduating and offers them a year's training.

The programme aims to train students as qualified junior consultants who can work with IBM in the Middle East after graduation.


A company as recognised as IBM requires very little introduction. Network engineering student at the UAE University Unood Adnan Ali Ahmad had always wanted to work with a high-profile company like IBM.

"I had heard of IBM and I always knew I wanted to get into this field. I like case studies, problems, finding solutions and the challenge of working on different kinds of projects. I was told IBM would provide an atmosphere where students can learn, so I applied," she said.

Tasneem Dohadwala, finance major at Indiana University, heard of the IBM trainee programme when the company visited her university.

"IBM came to our university and talked about the kind of organisation they are. When I heard about their work doctrine, I applied for the programme so that I could get the best professional experience."


The programme combined both practical experience with theoretical learning. Students got the opportunity to build on what they had studied with real-life client cases and problems.

"The course assimilated problems in which we had to deliver solutions at the end of six months," said Tasneem. "During these months we had to meet with clients, attend structured courses, go to workshops, network and meet people. They train you to be a consultant and give you feedback so you don't repeat mistakes."

This constant feedback is what gave these students the confidence to perform. "It was a safe environment that fostered learning," said Tasneem.

"The first six months you work on internal projects. IBM gives you a chance to gain an experience from both sides — internally within the company and from the client's side," said Unood.

Personal achievements

Both Tasneem and Unood felt that what they gained most out of the experience was confidence.

"I gained the confidence to present in front of people and take charge of interviews. I also realised the importance of body language when dealing with people," said Tasneem.

Unood added that consulting gave her an idea of the different things one has to go through to complete a project. "Every experience made us more knowledgeable," she said.

"All that you learn is training. With clients we learnt to put in our best efforts to deliver top quality work using innovative ideas."

"At the end of the project comes the appraisal. You appraise yourself and are appraised by a trainer and get 360 degree feedback. You recognise your strengths and weaknesses and work with your trainers for better performance," added Tasneem.

Career aspirations

On finishing the year's programme, both students said that they wanted to work in this field.

"With their wealth of knowledge and given the positive experience I have had working with the company, IBM is probably the best place to start a career," said Unood.

"I am not sure where I want to go from here. At IBM we did so many projects to see what was comfortable and which one we did best. We were allowed to shadow our consultants and ask questions with no barriers, so I would definitely recommend IBM to other students as a bigger, better experience with informed relationships and flexible working hours," said Tasneem. "It definitely works for me," she added.

About the programme

During training, students are exposed to various aspects of the business to allow experience-based learning. This helps students decide on a particular focus area for their future career.

In the first phase, which lasts six months, students spend two days per week on an office-based project which includes both hands-on training and timely execution. As a part of the programme trainees must deliver a working solution to an internal business problem, making the experience all the more relevant and practical.

They also work closely with experienced IBM consultants and face challenging client issues, which allows the students to enhance their own problem-solving skills and learn to deal with various circumstances. The rest of the working week is spent on client sites, filling in the role of a consultant. This also gives students the opportunity to get practicle experience and consolidate the theories they have been taught.

The programme also follows up with regular feedback from students to make sure that there is maximum optimisation from their work experience. After the year is up, the company selects the best trainees, promoting them to become full-time employees with the company.

Comments from the coordinator

Application process
"It starts off with 200 people, kind of like American Idol, and then we narrow it down to 36 until the final session, where we take it from 10 to 6 trainees."

Talent in the Middle East
"It is great having seniors do the high-profile work at this company, but we do need people to grow into these roles. So we start with students from the grassroots level — fresh from university into the experience. The different fields we offer will help them to choose their way with our guidance. The feedback we give to help them improve is also sometimes incorporated into their school curricula, telling them they need to focus on certain areas to help students in this part of the world."

A look at IBM
"We are planning on opening a programme in two months time and anyone interested can take a look at for more information.

— Nick Harvey , IBM training programmer